16 years ago, I wrote this in my journal:
My mom gets so depressed sometimes! The other evening, she was just miserable thinking about her job. She hates having to make phone calls and deal with people. But what really concerns me is that she seems to resent God for putting her in this situation. She’s letting this whole thing tear up her relationship with Him.
Sure, she still reads her bible and says her prayers, but I fear she’s not feeding on God’s word and interceding at God’s throne like she should. I tried my best to reach her and help get her closer to God, but I’m a fool for even trying. Any spiritual thing I say is completely in vain if the Holy Spirit of God is not using it.
I can’t convict anyone of anything on my own! Without Jesus I can do nothing! I need the Spirit of God to come and anoint me and empower me. “I need you to use me, Father. I can’t do your will unless you’re using me and I can’t reach anyone unless you’re the one reaching them.”
The next day was good yesterday was even better. I wrote a letter to my brother and it really fired me up. I was so in love with the Lord yesterday and my prayer time was great. I even quit drinking coffee! But today I was tested. I had a headache all morning and some of the afternoon. I was tired and hungry and I had no energy to pray. I tried, but I just couldn’t focus. All I can do is throw myself on God’s mercy and go on.
“Thank you Jesus for being patient with me. Please never stop loving me and never leave me. How can I be so unfaithful? I am nothing without You.”
— June 22nd, 1999
Dear Former Self,
You fear your mom isn’t “feeding on God’s word and interceding at God’s throne like she should”? You really need to stop worrying about other people’s spirituality and mind your own damn business. It’s really easy to point out how others aren’t living up to your impossible standards, but what makes you think you’d do any better in her situation?
Your mom sold her home, cashed out her 401k, moved halfway across the country, and left many family members behind because she thought that’s what God wanted. Once she got there, everything turned out to be more expensive than expected, so she had to take a job she hates. If you were in that situation, you’d probably be full of doubt and resentment as well. Now stop judging everyone around you and have a little empathy!
So you quit drinking coffee and then you were tired and had a headache? It’s pretty clear what’s happening here: you have a small addiction to caffeine and you’re in withdrawal. For what, exactly, do you need God’s mercy? Seriously, what do you think you did wrong? It’s not your fault you were too tired to pray. Or do you blame yourself for becoming dependent on caffeine? But where in the Bible is caffeine forbidden?
You seem determined to interpret your faith in the strictest way possible. If anything is fun or pleasurable, it must be a sin. In a way, this is commendable. Most Christians find a lifestyle that’s comfortable for them and set the bar just below it. But you are too honest and sincere to do that. You actually want to set aside your own desires and live the way Jesus would have you live. It’s ridiculous of you to imagine that you know whether Jesus wants you to drink coffee, but at least you’re trying to be a good Christian and not just assuming you already are.
The main problem here is that you keep apologizing to God for being human. You think “the flesh” is evil, so you’re ashamed of your hunger, fatigue, and all the other “bad” aspects of human nature that didn’t come along until after the fall. But if you inherited your sinful nature from your parents, then why do you feel so guilty? It only makes sense to feel guilty for things you did on purpose, not for being the way you are. It’s like a kid with Tourette’s syndrome feeling guilty that he swears all the time. It’s not his fault! And being hungry or tired isn’t your fault, either.
If your beliefs are true, then God is the one who’s at fault. Adam and Eve were completely innocent and apparently had no understanding of good and evil, yet God put them in the Garden Of Eden knowing full well that Satan would come along and deceive them. When the serpent told Eve that God had lied to her, how was this naive young woman supposed to know who was telling the truth and who wasn’t? At any point, God could have stepped in and warned her that it was a deception. But instead he just watched it happen. What kind of parent stands by and does nothing while a stranger tries to give his children poison?
According to your religion, Adam and Eve’s “sin nature” infected all life on Earth, causing creatures (including you) to feel pain, hunger, fatigue, grief, and all sorts of terrible things. God knew this would happen if he put Adam and Eve in the Garden Of Eden and allowed the serpent to tempt them, but he did it anyway. So why are you angry with yourself for being too tired and hungry to pray when God is the one who is ultimately responsible? Seems your god isn’t so perfect after all.
If you’re going to be religious, at least pick a religion that’s internally consistent.
— Matt, June 22nd, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.